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ITALY: The Salesian-run Café Bijoux provides a safe space for women to connect with each other and enables them to put their skills and talents to use

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries with the Salesians of Social Welfare, also known as the SCS/CNOS Federation, operate Café Bijoux in Verona, Italy. This café serves an artistic workshop for women who come from challenging circumstances. Some of the women have abused drugs or contend with mental health issues while others are homeless and living on the streets. Still others are grappling with complex family situations. Many of these women are in need of services but will not ask for help. The café workshop is a way to invite women into the program while allowing them to keep their dignity intact.

Launched in 2012, Café Bijoux enables struggling women to put their skills and talents to use. Participants are able to sew, crochet or create other works of art. These items are then sold during fairs and markets in the Verona area. Café Bijoux also serves as a meeting place for women to talk, drink coffee, prepare desserts and connect with others. It’s a respite from the everyday struggles in their lives.

Currently, more than 40 women from different countries are engaged in the Café Bijoux program. One participant, Princess, had a rough start in life having been exploited while she was young and has struggled since then because of a mental illness. Through the program, she has obtained an occupational internship. She cooks, shops, takes public transport and has become a woman with self-determination living a life of dignity and freedom.

Café Bijoux has a new kitchen space which serves as an excellent resource to promote knowledge of nutrition and foods from other cultures. It also provides a space for women to create birthday cakes and enjoy special celebrations with each other, improving their morale.

Women at Café Bijoux are able to celebrate important milestones in each other’s lives and make each other feel special. This is particularly important for women who have no family and are on their own. The relationships that are forged among the women and with the female program leaders is a critical part of why the program has been so successful.

Salesian missionaries living and working in more than 130 countries around the globe are focused on achieving gender equality through programs targeted specifically for young women and girls. These programs strive to empower young women and girls by providing opportunities for education and training that lead to livable wage employment.

“Young women and girls face many disadvantages and barriers to accessing education and achieving financial independence especially if they are overcoming challenges of homelessness and drug abuse and have faced early exploitation in their lives,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries provide programs and services to help women overcome obstacles and connect with the resources and education they need to lead safe and happy lives.”

Italy, Europe’s third-largest economy, has close to 2 million children living in poverty, according to UNICEF. The poverty rate has risen in the wake of Europe’s economic crisis. Unemployment is at its highest level since the late 1970s, with the overall jobless rate at 12.5 percent and youth unemployment as high as 41 percent.



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ANS – Italy – Cafè Bijoux: artistic workshop with the aim of welcoming women in difficulty

UNICEF – Italy Poverty

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